WeldieBlog: Recruiting Wars
The NCHC dropped the discipline hammer for both Huskies coach Bob Motzko and Denver coach Jim Montgomery after last weekend.
Well… that’s not really true. Both got what would best be described as a conference equivalent to a yellow card.
The NCHC issued a ‘Letter of Reprimand’ to both coaches for their behavior during the series last weekend. I have no clue what it really does, but it sounds like they are being told they were bad, swatted with a rolled-up newspaper and told not to do it again.
I’m sorry… a newspaper is a form of media that… you know, nevermind.
Motzko was issued one for ‘inappropriate comments provided to the media following Friday’s game that were directed toward NCHC on-ice officials and staff, as well as displaying a lack of conduct and sportsmanship on the ice at the conclusion of Saturday’s contest. ‘
Montgomery’s letter was for ‘using inappropriate language toward an opposing team’s player during Saturday’s game, as well as displaying a lack of conduct and sportsmanship on the ice at the conclusion of Saturday’s contest.’
There sure was friction between the two coaches after Saturday’s game. It was probably right to give both coaches a warning for the argument. It certainly wasn’t hard deciphering what some of the words that were coming out of Motzko’s mouth. Neither coach has commented on what exactly was said in the confrontation. Both coaches have nothing to gain by doing so, so we are left speculating.
That’s where the fun begins.
A-plus reference on the 11-year old ad campaign, Monty. Timely.
Watching it live made me, and many others watching, believe it was about the physical nature of the end game. However, there may be a little more boiling under the surface after a St. Cloud State recruit flipped and signed his National Letter of Intent (NLI) on Monday.
Maybe this is just a random happenstance, but there are too many coincidences to ignore here. To understand them all, I need to give you a background on the seedy underbelly of recruiting.
Basically, once a recruit signs a NLI, the recruitment process has ended and the recruit will attend that school next academic year. Once signed, no other school can contact that recruit per NCAA rules. The issue is that a NLI can only be issued when a student-athlete is a senior in high school (or older).
This leads to a sticky situation in hockey. Teams from the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) don’t have to abide by this rule and can contact players at a young age. The CHL can have players as young as 16, so teams will be contacting them very young. Since the CHL is a popular place for NHL teams to scout talent, you can see why colleges are a little behind the 8-ball when it comes to recruiting top talent. Once a player signs with a CHL team, they forgo all NCAA eligibility. How can colleges express interest in a player when that player can't sign officially to play for that school until they are 17 or 18?
To combat this, college hockey coaches have come up with what it called the ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’. The agreement is that once a player verbally commits to a college, all other coaches won’t attempt to recruit that player. As to everything, there are pros and cons to this; while it can be nice to not worry about another team stealing a recruit so you can focus on building a team, it can also lead to some schools piling up verbal commitments and just pick and choose which player they want.
Why does this matter now? Cole Guttman, a sixth-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning, verbally committed to the Huskies as of April of 2016. Last Monday, Guttman broke his commitment to Motzko and, in just a couple of hours, signed his NLI with the Denver Pioneers.
When a player breaks his commitment, the player usually doesn’t turn around and sign with another team right away. The last to do that in recent memory was Sonny Milano, who verbally committed to Notre Dame before signing his NLI to Boston College. It didn’t matter anyway for the first-round pick, since Milano played in the CHL and never stepped foot on a campus. More commonly, they open the recruiting process and look around and play the field. This is the case for Carter Randklev (more on him in a little bit).
Think of it this way: Imagine you suspect your significant other is cheating on you with someone you know and you two break up. Shortly afterward, those two start hooking up. Kind of suspicious, right?
The optics of it doesn’t look good for Montgomery in the court of public opinion. To go from committed to one team for over a year to changing your mind in a couple of hours seems like a big stretch. No doubt those two were talking longer than the hours he wasn’t committed to the Huskies. In the eyes of Huskies fans, it was quite the heel turn.
Hypothetically, let’s say Guttman expressed interest in joining the Pioneers while committed to the Huskies. Ethically, where does Montgomery stand? Does he keep it hush-hush but keep talking to Guttman? Should he honor the Gentleman’s Agreement and tell Guttman to break his commitment before they continue talking? It’s a gray area.
Either way, it’s important to remember that Montgomery, even if he did violate the Gentleman’s Agreement, didn’t break any formal rules. At worse, people will just think he’s a jerk (or another name for one). Maybe coaches will be a little more leery of his actions. But in the end, Denver got a good player in Guttman. Isn’t that what coaches are suppose to do?
This turn of events will undoubtedly add intrigue to the second to last series of the year when Denver comes to the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center on February 23rd and 24th. Huskies fans will not forget this.
I mentioned Carter Randklev earlier in the blog. The Moorhead native was originally committed to Arizona State, but recently broke his commitment to the Sun Devils. The soon-to-be senior is one of the top players in the state and will be on many team’s Mr. Hockey watch lists. His main reason is that he wanted to be closer to home.
He is the type of player that Motzko loves and has done a great job turning into top college players. The 5’7” forward has great intelligence on the ice and a knack for scoring. The Huskies will be going after him, but you can bet every other team in the area will also. Jon Ammerman, who played 47 games over four years at St. Cloud State, currently coaches the Moorhead Spuds. I’ll keep you updated once he picks a school.
While the fans may still be talking about the Denver series and the fallout, the Huskies have a big weekend again of them at home against Colorado College. The Tigers have surprised a many so far this season with impressive wins over North Dakota, Miami and Omaha. They currently sit at seven wins on the season after winning just eight all of last season.
Goaltender Alex Leclerc has been the main reason for the success for the Tigers. While his save percentage (.916) and goals against average (2.59) aren’t eye popping, he has shown the ability to take over a game all by himself. He stopped all 41 shots in a 4-0 shutout victory last game against the Omaha Mavericks. Nineteen of those 41 shots came in the third period.
The Huskies will need to do everything they can to make sure Leclerc doesn’t get into a rhythm and steal a victory. If they keep people in front of Leclerc and both Nick Halloran and Mason Bergh off the score sheet, it will be really hard for the Tigers to keep up with the Huskies' depth.
One place that can be the difference-maker this weekend will be on special teams. The Tigers power play (15.5 percent) and penalty kill (75.5 percent) have not been special. After the Huskies got embarrassed on special teams last weekend, you can no doubt that will be an emphasis in practice this week.
Motzko said this week of practice will be a lot more intense. The team will be better-prepared and ready to wash out the memory of last weekend. I expect the game will yield much better results. We saw first-hand how a team can rebound the next week. I expect the Huskies to do the same.
This blog is the opinion of Travis Weldon, college hockey fan and a frequent guest of Granite City Sports. You can read more from Travis on Twitter @MoarClappers.